Captains’ Club Spotlight: Capt. Leigh Love

13 September 2023 By Lauren Beck

Lauren Beck is the former editor of Dockwalk and was with the publication from 2006 to 2023. At 13, she left South Africa aboard a 34-foot sailing boat with her family and ended up in St. Maarten for six years. Before college, she worked as crew for a year, and then cut her journalistic teeth at Better Homes and Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal online. She loves traveling, reading, tennis, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox.

The BOAT International Captains’ Club now welcomes more than 160 superyacht captains in its ranks. The idea behind the club is to help facilitate contact and the exchange of information and experiences for superyacht captains. This issue’s Q&A features Capt. Leigh Love as she shares her journey into yachting, her scariest moment on board, plus her top captain tip.

How did you end up a captain?

On a road trip through Europe, I saw yachts for the first time in Saint-Tropez. I decided right there that I wanted to start yachting. So, when I got back to South Africa, I put my apartment on the market, quit my job, and flew to Antibes. Two weeks later, I had my first job on a charter yacht.

I started as a stew back in 2003. It didn’t seem like it was even an option for a woman to work on deck, but I met the only female captain I knew of at that time in Antibes, Lucy Jones, and I thought she was inspirational. Just over a year later, I decided to make a jump over to deck. My then boyfriend, now husband, and I got a job together on a boat where he was the mate and I was the deckhand, and we worked together on deck for almost 12 years, until he was the captain, and I was the mate.

Greg has always pushed and encouraged me towards my goal. Eventually, we got to a point where our qualifications had merged, and I was ready to grow in my career without him. Once I got my Chief Mate 3000GT ticket, I decided to start freelancing so that I could have the freedom to see Greg between jobs. I also decided to give big boats a go. My first officer’s position was as a temp officer on the 90-meter Nero. Over the next few years, I helped them on numerous occasions for crossings as well as doing 11 months as chief officer. Eventually, I got enough sea time to do my Master 3000GT in 2018. With that ticket, I was able to get a full-time position as chief officer/relief captain on a 55-meter. I did my first Mediterranean charter season as captain on there. After a few temp gigs, I joined M/Y Zeal full time in 2021. I didn’t take the quickest route to becoming a captain, but I believe it gave me a really good foundation as I have worked in every department on board.

Capt. Leigh Love

What would you be doing if you weren’t a yacht captain?

I had to think about the answer for a while. I really love what I do, but I guess at some point I would have to transition off yachts, but I don’t think I would leave yachting. I think I’d like to get involved in yacht management at some point.

Where is your top spot for diving?

Conception Island and the Turks and Caicos have some beautiful sites.

Where is your favorite cruising destination? 

Alaska is spectacular! It’s the most majestic place with incredible wildlife — I can’t wait to go back there. The Exuma islands are another favorite.

Where is still on your yachting bucket list?

There are a few places I would love to see — Thailand, Bali, and I’d love to cruise the South Pacific and the Galápagos, too.

If you were marooned on a desert island, which crewmember would you want with you?

Probably my first mate, Ro. He is such a legend, one of the most solid people I know. I trust him with my life. Plus, he knows how to spear fish and I think he would be pretty good at climbing coconut trees.

What has been your most memorable moment on board?

A recent, very scary one — I was anchored off Elizabeth Island, Bahamas, in a very tight spot with several shallow reefs nearby. It was around 3 a.m. and I was on the bridge when a massive squall came through. The wind shifted 180 degrees and went from 10 knots to 45 knots, and we dragged about 150 meters in a matter of seconds! I fired up the engines, got the engineer and deck crew up immediately, and thank god the anchors took hold again, but that was the most intense, stressful experience. I was shaking like a leaf. For a few minutes there, I thought we were going to run aground, but thankfully that didn’t happen.

What is your best trick for keeping guests entertained when the weather is poor?

Cocktails in the hot tub are always very popular. If that fails, karaoke — there’s nothing like a little rainy day rock star action to keep the vibe going.

What is the biggest crew challenge you deal with as captain?

Finding crew who are not only great at their jobs but that are also able to be a part of a cohesive team is always challenging. Unfortunately, we all come across toxic, belligerent individuals now and then, and it is never fun having to deal those types of crew and the drama that comes along with them.

What is your top tip for other captains?

Be humble. Don’t let the position go to your head to the point that you’re so full of yourself you think you have nothing more to learn. You’d be surprised what you might learn from even the lowest ranked crewmember if you keep an open mind.

This was originally published in the June 2023 issue of Dockwalk.

For more featured captains:

The BOAT International Captains’ Club membership is currently open to active captains of sailing yachts and motor yachts longer than 24 meters LOA. For more information about the Club and how to apply, email


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